Minimizing Impacts to Ecosystem Services from Gas Well Placement


Journal of Environmental Management


Minimizing impacts of land use change on ecosystem services using multi-criteria heuristic analysis


Arturo A Keller, Eric Fournier, Jessica Fox


Development of natural landscapes to support human activities impacts the capacity of the landscape to provide ecosystem services. Typically, several ecosystem services are impacted at a single development site and various footprint scenarios are possible, thus a multi-criteria analysis is needed. Restoration potential should also be considered for the area surrounding the permanent impact site. The primary objective of this research was to develop a heuristic approach to analyze multiple criteria (e.g. impacts to various ecosystem services) in a spatial configuration with many potential development sites. The approach was to: (1) quantify the magnitude of terrestrial ecosystem service (biodiversity, carbon sequestration, nutrient and sediment retention, and pollination) impacts associated with a suite of land use change scenarios using the InVEST model; (2) normalize results across categories of ecosystem services to allow cross-service comparison; (3) apply the multi-criteria heuristic algorithm to select sites with the least impact to ecosystem services, including a spatial criterion (separation between sites). As a case study, the multi-criteria impact minimization algorithm was applied to InVEST output to select 25 potential development sites out of 204 possible locations (selected by other criteria) within a 24,000 ha property. This study advanced a generally applicable spatial multi-criteria approach for 1) considering many land use footprint scenarios, 2) balancing impact decisions across a suite of ecosystem services, and 3) determining the restoration potential of ecosystem services after impacts.